Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for... Zzzzzzz (and the Whisky Trench Riders)

Z is for zzzzzzz...

We've reached the end of the A to Z Challenge! Congratulations to all the participants; I think we all deserve a long nap, like the kitty in the drop cap.

I shouldn't, though - I've got ROW80 goals to live up to! I'm still hoping to do a full day's writing marathon, and there are some great Ask Me Anything questions over at the Forum that I can use on my characters.

Of course, it's not over till its over. I've got lots of blog visits to make and so many lovely comments to reply to! Thanks to everyone who came by.

I don't quite miss Canada yet -- but I'm happy to promote it whenever I can! I hope you enjoy my latest YouTube playlist, featuring an awesome Canadian band:

Now it's naptime!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for... Wish You Were Here

Y is for wish You were here!

I'd love to be able to host a writers' retreat (like Jessica Bell's awesome Homeric retreat in Greece coming up in August) or some other blog-y get together here in Geneva, but as it's not possible at the moment, I've got a prompt for you all!

The instructions go like this: "In Fortunately, the Milk by master storyteller Neil Gaiman, things get rather odd on a father's trip to buy milk for his children. He soon finds himself transported through time and space on an extraordinary adventure where the fate of the universe depends on him, a time-traveling Stegosaurus (in a hot air balloon), and, fortunately, the milk. Some may call this a "tall tale" in which someone tells an exaggerated story to keep an audience's interest. Whether you believe the father or not, use the story as inspiration to write your own tall tale in the space below. Let your imagination run wild, and be sure to make it as detailed as possible so that it is all the more convincing. Then create an illustration to bring your story to life."

Use it to begin a tall tale or an illustration or anything you'd like!

You can find the original on the Mouse Circus Neil Gaiman site.

In other news, I think Irvine Welsh is going to be attending the Geneva International Book Fair this weekend! Stay tuned for further developments...

Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for... Cliches

X is for cliches. I'm not sure why the letter X made me think of the word cliche, but I've got one heck of a cliche for you:

Chocolates from Switzerland!

And if you don't like or can't have chocolate, how about some cheese?

And if you don't like or can't have cheese... I'm sure there's a cold drink of some sort I can offer you!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for... Writing I Ought to be Doing

W is for writing I ought to be doing.

I suppose it's understandable that I haven't had time for writing or editing, but I still feel guilty (especially when checking in for ROW80)! I still mean to attempt the NaNoWriMo all day marathon, which officially took place a couple of weeks ago, but which I'll try tomorrow or next Saturday. It would be easiest to start drafting a new story, of course, but what I ought to do is focus on editing or, failing that, typing up last year's NaNo novel. Meanwhile, I heard about a couple of new agents entering the field, and queried them with one of the completed novels, so fingers crossed!

Author Malcolm Campbell was recently part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour, which featured four questions. Here are my answers:

What am I working on?

At the moment, day job and house-setting-up. I should be editing Druid's Moon some more, and typing up last year's NaNo story Larksong. I've also got some knitting projects I'd like to start!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My three historical romances differ in their settings, I think. I haven't come across many novels set in the 1470s or 1490s that don't feature royals or nobles of some kind. My characters are everyday folk!

And my paranormal (Druid's Moon) is different mostly in that it's 'contained' - there's no grand worldbuilding. Just a menacing paranormal creature (a Kraken-type creature) that's haunted a family for centuries.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what comes! Usually it's an image, such as for The Face of A Lion: I had an image come in my head of a boy and a cat walking down a dusty road, and the sea was rising behind them. I knew it meant they were walking back into time. And so I started writing to find out what happened...
Other times it's dreams; that's how I got into the world of Larksong, which is my first story set in the 1910s. Or the dystopian that's still milling about in the back of my mind...

How does my writing process work?

When everything's on schedule it's kind of like this: Draft story during NaNo. Type up story over the next month or so, editing as I go. Copy from PlainText on iPad into Scrivener on the pc, separate into chapters and scenes, and print story. This is the stage I'm currently at with Captive of the Sea. The next step should be editing on paper, then entering all those changes. In between I participate on the Compuserve Forum, sharing snips and doing exercises and the like (and having fun at houseparties!). Then comes sharing the story with betas, more editing, fine tuning, writing the query and synopsis, and finally, within a year if I've been organised, querying!

Sometimes you just have to stand still for a this guy:

How does your writing process work?

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for... Medeia Sharif's Snip, Snip ReVenge

V is for Medeia Sharif's latest release (I'll be featuring a review soon!) -- and she's got a giveaway too!

SNIP, SNIP REVENGE by Medeia Sharif
YA Contemporary, Evernight Teen
Release Date April 25, 2014

Beautiful, confident Tabby Karim has plans for the winter: nab a role in her school’s dramatic production, make the new boy Michael hers, and keep bigoted Heather—with her relentless Ay-rab comments—at bay. When a teacher’s lie and her father’s hastiness rob her of her beautiful hair, her dreams are dashed. The fastest barber in Miami Beach has made her look practically bald. 

With all her pretty hair gone, Tabby doesn’t believe she fits the feminine role she’s auditioning for. Michael is still interested in her, but he’s playing it cool. Heather has taken to bullying her online, which is easier to do with Tabby’s ugly haircut. Tabby spearheads Operation Revenge, which proves satisfying until all of her problems deepen. After messing up, she sets to make things right.

Author Bio
I’m a Kurdish-American author who was born in New York City, and I presently call Miami my home. I received my master’s degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University. After becoming a voracious reader in high school and a relentless writer dabbling in many genres in college, I found my niche writing for young people. Today I'm a MG and YA writer published through various presses. In addition to being a writer, I'm a middle school English teacher. My memberships include Mensa, ALAN, and SCBWI.

Find Medeia

Blog   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads   |   Instagram   |   Amazon

Join Medeia's giveaway to celebrate the release of her latest novel.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations, Medeia!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for... Upcoming Book Releases

U is for upcoming book releases!

We moved into our own place in Geneva last week, so now that I have a real address, I'm excited to order new books!

Here they are in no particular order:

Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon

This is the eighth book in the Outlander series, and Diana's got a lovely explanation of the cover image, which is an octothorpe (hashtag!):

As you can see, she's been sharing lots of excerpts and spoilers, and also has a link detailing release dates in countries outside of North America. Visit for info!

Beowulf, translated by J. R. R. Tolkien

"Beowulf is is the longest epic poem in Old English, and is dated to the early 11th century. It survives in a single manuscript, housed at the British Library, and has inspired countless retellings of the myth - recently and famously by the late Seamus Heaney, whose translation won him the Whitbread book of year award in 1999.

Tolkien himself called the story 'laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination', saying that 'the whole thing is sombre, tragic, sinister, curiously real'.

Although the author completed his own translation in 1926, he 'seems never to have considered its publication', said Christopher Tolkien today, announcing the Tolkien estate's new deal with HarperCollins to publish Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary on 22 May. The book, edited by Christopher Tolkien, will also include the series of lectures Tolkien gave at Oxford about the poem in the 1930s, as well as the author's 'marvellous tale', Sellic Spell.

Tolkien's 'creative attention to detail' in his lectures gives rise to a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision', said his son. 'It is as if he entered into the imagined past: standing beside Beowulf and his men shaking out their mail-shirts as they beached their ship on the coast of Denmark, listening to the rising anger of Beowulf at the taunting of Unferth, or looking up in amazement at Grendel's terrible hand set under the roof of Heorot.'

Tolkien also closely considers the dragon which would slay Beowulf, writing of how the beast was 'snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed when he discovers the theft of the cup' – an image reminiscent of his own thief Bilbo Baggins, sneaking into the lair of the dragon Smaug in The Hobbit – but, said his son, the author 'rebuts the notion that this is 'a mere treasure story … just another dragon tale''.

'He turns to the lines that tell of the burying of the golden things long ago, and observes that it is 'the feeling for the treasure itself, this sad history' that raises it to another level,' said Christopher Tolkien.


Beowulf opens 'Hwæt w GrDena in gar-dagum / Þod-cyninga þrym gefrnon, / H p æþelingas ellen fremedon', lines which were translated by Heaney as 'So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by / and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness. / We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns.'

The opening, Hwæt, has long foxed scholars, with translations ranging from Heaney's 'so' to 'lo', 'hark', 'behold', 'attend' and 'listen'. HarperCollins would not comment on how Tolkien approached Beowulf's famous opening, but all will be revealed come May."

Announcement in The Guardian

One of the reasons I love copy editing is that it touches other aspects of my personality, such as my love of books, of archives, of fact-checking, of finding sources, and of having (or at least being aware of) the completeness of collections. By which I mean, I'd love to be Christopher Tolkien's assistant! Or a curator at one of the other universities that keep Tolkien's papers.

I'm sure I'd seen a reference to his Beowulf translation somewhere before, but I hadn't realised it was complete enough to be published!

Although I was very sad to have to put most of our library into storage before we moved to Geneva, I heard about the Tolkien translation in time, and brought Seamus Heaney's translation with me. That's the last version I've read; there were others at school but I don't remember those very well. Can't wait to see Tolkien's version!

The next book is an anthology of creepy short stories for middle grade readers:

The Cabinet of Curiosities by Claire Legrand, Stefan Bachmann,

They've been featuring stories on their blog for the past year, and I can guarantee that they're deliciously creepy! Visit the Cabinet of Curiosities to explore...

The final book is the first book I've ever heard about on Twitter that I immediately knew I wanted. Of course, it wasn't a promotional post, merely another Lois Lowry fan on Twitter who shared the cover image.

The Brown Reader: 50 Writers Remember College Hill

Just look at the list of contributors! I highlighted the two I'm most excited about, Lois Lowry and Marilynne Robinson!:

Which new releases are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for... Tolkien

T is for J. R. R. Tolkien, of course!

Couldn't go through the A to Z without mentioning him once. Over one hundred years ago, in 1911, before he'd begun to write most if not all of his legends and stories, Tolkien went on a hiking tour in Switzerland.

Now a company called Alpenwild is featuring recreations of Tolkien's trip:

Lots of places claim to be the "real" Middle-earth, though of course it all depends on which part of Middle-earth you're seeking to experience. Hurst Green in Lancashire, which I visited two years ago, is undoubtedly close to what The Shire must be like.

Lauterbrunnen, meanwhile, where Tolkien walked in 1911, might just be the inspiration for Rivendell.

Here are three pictures that Tolkien drew of Rivendell:

from M Gray's page

And here are some Google screenshots of Lauterbrunnen:

I'd like to take the Tolkien tour myself someday, though it's rather far from Geneva (says the one who's come all the way from Canada!) and I'm afraid of heights.

The tour concludes at the new Greisinger Museum, a private collection of Tolkien and Hobbit related items now open to the public:

Sounds like a great trip!

Which museums devoted to authors have you visited?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for... Speaking Four Languages

S is for speaking four languages!

Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Terms used by locals, and not usually used outside of Switzerland, are known as Helvetisms. Apparently some of these words have been borrowed by others over the years, and heimweh, or homesickness (in German) is one of them, first used by Swiss soldiers posted far afield:

Source: Oxford English Dictionary
I love that first quotation and its reference to distemper, referred to on the German Wikipedia page as "'Schweizerkrankheit' - morbus helveticus."

An interesting new word for me was bise:

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

We felt this wind for the first time the other day, and I could see its rippling effects on the lake, which is otherwise usually clear as glass.

Meanwhile, peacocks and peahens on the United Nations grounds!

Have you heard the call of the peacock?
How would you describe it?
Some people say it sounds like a cat, but that doesn't quite fit.

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for... Renverse, and Other Coffee and Desserts

R is for renversé. And other coffees, and desserts.

All writers need coffee, and I love coffee with hot milk - I could drink the stuff all day.

Here they call it a renverse because... Well, here's the explanation from the Nespresso (a Swiss brand!) site:
"CAPPUCCINO, LATTE, FLAT WHITE, MACCHIATO – WITH OR WITHOUT CREAM, SPRINKLED WITH CHOCOLATE, A DASH OF VANILLA OR PINCH OF CINNAMON... BARISTAS IN EVERY CORNER OF THE WORLD, HUNCHED OVER GLEAMING MACHINES, HAVE A GIFT FOR INVENTING ORIGINAL COFFEE RECIPES. Every culture has its own speciality: from the Portuguese galão – one part espresso to three parts hot milk, served in a glass – to the Hong Kong style yuanyang – three parts Arabica, plus seven parts milky tea. Amidst all these subtly different national drinks, where does Switzerland fit in? Alongside Nespresso, milk is a national treasure. It goes without saying that these two Swiss perfections are made for one another. Even better, Switzerland has long boasted a traditional blend of coffee and hot milk – despite being less well known abroad.

This drink is known as a renversé in the French-speaking parts, die Schale in German-speaking Switzerland or macchiato lungo in the Ticino area.

The secret behind the recipe is, as the name suggests, a reversal of the proportions of coffee and milk – 40% coffee and 60% milk."
Sometimes they serve it with a little square of chocolate, but I'd already eaten the chocolate by the time I thought to take a photo!

Coffee shop that's been around since the 1930s!

Excited me!

Flammenkuchen! Again, it tasted so good, I'd already eaten half before I remembered to take a photo.


I'm featured on Nicole's blog, talking about Welsh actors and The Chronicles of Narnia!

Hope everyone's having a great A to Z!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for... Questions

Q is for Questions!

So far I've had four questions:

Who is Louis Favre?

His was the first statue I saw when we arrived, in the park across from our hotel:

I didn't search too hard, as his Wikipedia entry was fascinating enough. Favre was an engineer who took on the Gotthard Rail tunnel project in the 19th century, building a tunnel through the Gotthard massif to connect Switzerland and Italy:
"The project was, for the time, a vast undertaking, verging on folly according to many critics. Construction of the tunnel was accompanied by very considerable loss of life and escalation of cost, arising out of the novelty of the endeavour and the most insurmountable difficulties which presented themselves."
He died in the tunnel before it was completed. Apparently the tunnel is currently undergoing renovations. As far as I can tell, the oldest rail line is the Brenner line and (again according to Wikipedia) "is the only transalpine rail route without a major tunnel."

Passages across and under the Alps are fascinating! There seem to be a lot of them, all with their own fascinating histories: carriage passes fashioned for Napoleon's army! Not to mention Hannibal and his elephants!

But what does the word Alps actually mean? A fun description is on the Wikipedia page about Hannibal: "Italy is a part of the African continental plate, not the European plate; the Italian peninsula has been jammed into Europe through tectonic plate movements, which created the Alps and more particularly, made the Italian side of the Alps considerably steeper."

(I feel like a kid cheating on an essay with all these Wikipedia quotes)

The word is derived from Celtic, through French, as a word for high mountains, possibly stemming from *alb (hill). "Roman Albania was a land by the Caspian Sea (modern Daghestan); in English Albania was occasionally also a name for Scotland." (from the Online Etymology Dictionary)

So perhaps that's why Scotland is Alba (scroll down to the last song)!

"It's likely that alb ("white") and albus have common origins deriving from the association of the tops of tall mountains or steep hills with snow." Apparently, strictly speaking, the word alp refers to the
"grazing pastures in the alpine regions below the glaciers, not the peaks. An alp refers to a high mountain pasture where cows are taken to be grazed during the summer months and where hay barns can be found, and the term 'the Alps', referring to the mountains, is a misnomer. The term for the mountain peaks varies by nation and language: words such as horn, kogel, gipfel, and berg are used in German speaking regions: mont, pic, dent and aiguille in French speaking regions; and monte or cima in Italian speaking regions." (Thank you Wikipedia!)
We haven't had a chance to visit the Alps yet, but while apartment hunting, came across an artist. All the street names here have brief descriptions telling you who the streets were named for, which is very handy and interesting. Who was Jean-Etienne Liotard?

He was an artist and art dealer from the 18th century and apparently he visited Constantinople and painted "numerous pastels of Turkish domestic scenes; he also continued to wear Turkish dress for much of the time when back in Europe" as many others have done, including Lord Byron.

Here's his The Chocolate Girl:

While we're all drinking some chocolate, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise for being so slow with the A to Z Challenge. My new job is lots of fun, but the hours are long, and we've also been busy finding an apartment! If all goes well we're moving this weekend, but that also means no internet access for a while. Whatever shall I do without Twitter? I promise to visit all of you and keep up with my Minion duties, just more slowly than planned. And ROW80 goals have been set aside a bit, too, unfortunately.

And now, trees! What are these trees?

I've mentioned them before, and it was Hilary I think who suggested they might be plane trees. There are in fact two of them, the darker-bark ones that have been budding and the eucalyptus-type-bark ones that aren't flowering at all. If anyone has more information, please tell me!

Finally, here's a Pulp song celebrating trees:

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for... Ariana Park

P is for Ariana Park, the park on the grounds of the United Nations.

"The park was originally owned by the Revilliod de Rive family whose last descendant bequeathed it to the City of Geneva. ...

One of the bequest's conditions was that peacocks should roam freely on its grounds. It is not unusual to see peacocks dancing in full splendor in the Palais grounds. Most of the birds that visitors can see today are peafowl donated to UNOG in 1997 by a zoo in Japan. Others were a gift from the Permanent Mission of India. The birds are fed and cared for by the park's gardeners. ...

The grounds of the Palais des Nations house three nineteenth century villas: La Fenêtre, Le Bocage and La Pelouse, dating from 1820, 1823 and 1853 respectively. These villas were originally private residences. ...

On 9 June 2009, the United Nations Office at Geneva [was] awarded the prestigious "Nature Reserve Certificate" by the Swiss non-profit organization "Fondation Nature and Economie". This well-known environmental quality label is awarded to entities that protect nature and contribute to biological diversity by managing at least 30 per cent of the green areas around buildings in a natural manner. UNOG's many initiatives to qualify for the Certificate include, among others, avoiding pesticides, utilizing compost and making use of sheep instead of lawnmowers. [I can't wait to see the sheep!]

...visitors can enjoy the rich biodiversity of the 46-hectare park, with majestic trees over 100 years old. Over 800 species can be found in the park. Six hundred have been identified so far. Plaques indicating the country of origin, Latin and common names and species have been affixed to 120 of the trees in the areas of the park most frequented by visitors. A team of five gardeners maintains the park and its alleys and plants the flower beds."

A brief description of the history

Long view

United Nations entrance

Rare plants rediscovered!

Meadow and wildflowers!


Mont Blanc

Cherry blossoms!

A cedar from Lebanon that's nearly 200 years old

View from the UN


Sequoia from above!

Villa Bocage

Tolstoy used to stay there!